Scoring Big With Your Online Quality Game: Collaborative Strategies for Institutional Improvement
Concurrent Session 4
Ready to increase your student success and the quality of your online courses and services? Valencia College will share its comprehensive plan to increase online quality across faculty, student, and administrative areas while also helping you formulate working strategies to tackle similar issues at your institution.
Valencia began offering alternative delivery courses in the early 1990’s, and as technology evolved and student demand grew, Valencia continued to increase the number of course and program offerings in both hybrid and online modalities (Meiller & Associates, 2013).
In 2010, a newly formed, college-wide steering committee, with representatives from Faculty Association, the Learning Technology & Alternative Delivery Standards Committee, Academic Affairs, and the Office of Faculty Development and Administration, was charged with ensuring class sections taught via alternative delivery methods were equivalent to on-campus sections of the same course in terms of objectives, competencies, content, and transferability. The steering committee created the Valencia Alternative Delivery Standards Plan to provide guidance for the training of faculty and the development, delivery, and assessment of alternative delivery courses.
Although comprehensive in nature, implementation and oversight of the plan became even more necessary as the college and online course offerings experienced significant growth. Meanwhile, federal and state regulations and requirements increased as the national demand for distance learning escalated and concerns regarding the quality of online learning grew (Allen & Seaman, 2014).
Therefore, in 2013, Valencia commissioned a consulting group to perform a current state assessment of online learning which was completed in June 2013. The report provided Valencia with (a) a shared understanding of current progress, (b) laid the foundation for collaborative planning of how best to move forward in a learning-centered culture, and (c) allowed for embracing the elasticity for needed change (Shugart, 2014). During the assessment, several recurring themes emerged through interviews, group sessions, survey results, and data analysis (Meiller & Associates, 2013). These themes represent several areas where we have opportunities to improve, particularly in terms of providing a consistent experience to students and faculty. To explore these areas, the Learning Leadership Council commissioned short-term work teams to design and in many cases implement strategies, processes, practices, and/or tools that would increase online student success, decrease the gap in success between instructional modalities, and improve the student experience in online and hybrid courses.
Based on the consultant report, multiple inconsistencies were noted throughout the organic structure of Valencia’s online courses and programs. The consultants suggested increased development, consistent practice, and a focus on success to help guide any future work. Working with the Institutional Research (IR) team, reports were created on student success, faculty success, and enrollments in order to help work teams make data-driven decisions. Based on this background work, six work teams were created: Online Data and Evaluation, Faculty Preparedness, Dean and Chair/Coordinator Preparedness, Online Student Preparedness, Online Student Services and Support, and Course and Curriculum Resources. Intentional overlaps were created between work teams to help provide an overall vision and document progress. This was done by having the Assistant Director of Online Teaching and Learning serve on all teams—either in a leadership capacity (she served as co-chair for the Data and Course and Curriculum teams) or as a team member. Additional overlaps occurred between groups to help guide the work and provide a communication stream for all involved. Other team leaders included deans, faculty members, the Director of Institutional Research, and a Student Services staff member. Once the teams had begun work and were heading for implementation, an additional group was created to help plan future work and add more communication streams. This group was called the Collaborative of Online Learning (COOL) team, and all team leaders served on this team. Monthly meetings were held to discuss progress, issues, and share ideas. The Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Assistant Vice President for Teaching and Learning also served on this team. The Vice President was the main sponsor of the work teams, but additional sponsors (the Vice President for Student Affairs and the CIO) were also included in the COOL team meetings. Having both teams and team leaders working together each month during the design and implementation phases allowed for a greater understanding of the work and for greater shared responsibility.
The short-term work teams were also created to be as inclusive as possible in terms of composition and campus representation. Valencia had five campuses at the start of this plan, and each campus needed to be represented in terms of faculty, administrators, and staff. Calls for representatives were sent out through appropriate governance channels (Faculty Council, Instructional Affairs Committee, and other groups) for work teams. Vice Presidents and other administrators were consulted per their recommendations for team members and team leaders. In total, over 80 people served on different work teams to help accomplish all aspects of the Online Learning Plan.
As work teams began their efforts, each one reported out progress and challenges to the sponsors of the work. Once the work team was ready to create a set of recommendations, these were vetted by the sponsors prior to being sent through Valencia’s shared governance process. This was done to fully vet the recommendations and incorporate any additional feedback for college leadership. Recommendations for implementation were shared with all of the governance councils, and their feedback was incorporated. All of the governance councils passed the final recommendations and implementation teams were started. These teams consistent of the people who would actually build resources or create/modify processes as needed to accomplish the work. The implementation teams also had team leaders from across the college, and reported their progress to the COOL team in monthly meetings.
Overall, this work has taken roughly two years to create and implement. Each work team created its own implementation plan to help increase the quality of online teaching and learning as it related to their area. The Dean and Chair/Coordinator group decided to create multiple development experiences to help better prepare academic leaders for recognizing and supporting online quality. The Faculty Preparedness team decided to create a new faculty development program that would be required for faculty to complete prior to teaching online courses at Valencia. The Course and Curriculum team created a master list of resources that would be developed to help support the work of the other teams. The Online Data and Evaluation team changed the key performance indicators that the college focused on as well as vetting data and assessment plans for the other work teams. The Online Student Preparedness team created an online module for students to take prior to starting an online course. This module was piloted in an experiment during the 2016-2017 academic year to see if better preparing students prior to courses beginning would be the best way to increase success. The Online Student Services and Support team created a series of recommendations that will lead to better recognition and use of online support services and tools.
As part of this workshop, you will hear about Valencia’s progress with their Online Learning Plan, participate in interactive activities to help you determine which quality issues you may need to address, and create a series of strategies to help you tackle these issues when you return to your institution. We will also highlight data and reporting strategies you could use to help identify, monitor, and solve some of the quality issues you experience.
By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:
- Identify concerns about current practices surrounding the quality of online learning
- Identify quality elements and current successful practices that can improve online learning
- Include appropriate stakeholders whose collaborative contributions can impact online learning quality improvement
- Generate solutions to address quality online learning concerns
- Outline strategies for implementing quality online solutions.